by Richard Betts, Legal Account Director, Britannic Technologies
Cloud computing has taken up a lot of column inches in the past couple of years and has undoubtedly been the buzzword across different industries. Since the publication of the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) Silver Linings Report (2013) and the Law Society’s cloud guidance (2014) that both specifically addressed the legal sector’s need for guidance on cloud adoption, more and more legal practices throughout the UK have started to embrace the technology and are experiencing the rewards. Satisfied with the increase in flexibility and cost benefits, early movers are deploying voice services and UC (Unified Communications) applications in the cloud.
Technology Enabling Businesses
IT is now seen as a business enabler and key lever in order to achieve organisational objectives. With advancement in technologies such as the cloud, IT managers can simplify implementation, speed up adoption and improve customer service. As the trend of mergers and acquisitions in the legal industry continues, companies are faced with integrating a whole variety of different technologies, phone systems and software. Those legal firms that leverage IT to swiftly and efficiently streamline operations of acquired businesses are quickly gaining competitive advantage.
The Growth of the Mobile Workforce
Invariably teams are dispersed across different sites and the mobile workforce is growing, supported with greater demand for conferencing and collaboration. The IT team is fundamental to the operational functioning of the legal practice. Time is scarce and demands on their time ever increasing; if they can outsource communications as a managed service in the cloud then the team, the business and the customers will benefit.
Concerns about the Cloud
Naturally, Britannic has experienced concerns from legal practices of putting voice in the cloud, around security and data protection of client files, and protection of existing communications investments.
Legal practices do not have to be concerned about the security of their data. Private cloud deployments, for instance, are ring fenced for the sole use of one organisation and offer higher levels of network security as networks are segregated with firewalls. This ensures that data is kept secure. The cloud provider needs to underpin the level of information security provided with an appropriate certification, i.e. ISO27001. As an added bonus, private cloud comes with extra protection as voice traffic is encrypted and the system is monitored 24/7.
Protection of Investment
Existing communications solutions can be protected as we can migrate them to the cloud. This is a great way of upcycling existing investments (software and telephone handsets) and through managed software upgrades keep the technology current with the latest business enabling applications available to the firm and its users. The cloud is a very flexible architecture model that can be deployed to meet a customer’s needs and business objectives, with scale up and scale down capacity management and charging.
Top 10 Tips of Putting Voice in the Cloud for Legal Practices
1) Cost Savings
From a recent survey Britannic conducted, 60% of IT Managers stated cost savings to be the main reason for putting voice in the cloud.
Keeping up to date with technology refreshes can be expensive. Legal practices can be secure in the knowledge that they have access to the latest releases of their technology in the cloud. Britannic’s experience demonstrated that the total cost of ownership can also be significantly reduced over the life of the contract.
Billing through a cloud model is both transparent and predictable because it can be adjusted to the client’s needs, e.g. the business can be billed per user, application and line capacity on a monthly basis. This means that the communications budget can be forecasted accurately avoiding unwanted surprises.
Communications systems today are complex with the number of different technologies and vendors involved. Deploying voice in the cloud enables consolidation of suppliers and the chance to outsource the solution as a managed service. IT teams can focus on delivering new business technology enabling the business to save on resource and refreshing skills when required.
Reductions in power through a cloud-based model not only have a significant impact on costs, but also reduce the impact on the environment.
The more agile a legal practice is, the more chance of success it has. With the surge in growth of mergers and acquisitions legal practices are experiencing changes and new offices need to be opened or merged together. Historically adding lines, call logging, recording and even server setup would take up a lot of the IT team’s time.
Putting voice in the cloud creates a standardised model that can be rolled out, so moves, adds and changes are simplified. For example, if the site is connected to the network, a new desk phone can be plugged in and will work instantly. Producing standardised templates frees up the IT team to focus on other areas of the business.
In today’s competitive legal world it has never been more important to raise the bar of innovation. With the latest technology legal practices can win the competitive race to improve efficiencies and client service.
Easy application roll-out
By putting voice in the cloud IT Managers can easily add applications such as conferencing and collaboration tools, contact centre and mobility solutions. The deployment of Microsoft’s Skype for Business (formerly known as Microsoft Lync) is a trend that is currently sweeping the legal industry: legal practices want to use Skype for Business for presence and collaboration, but still may want the functionality of their tried and tested communications solution that can be delivered through the cloud.
4) Call Recording
Many law firms are now providing financial advice and are therefore subject to FSA regulations on call recording. The good news is that the calls can be encrypted and securely stored in the cloud for access when required and permitted. Ensure that your provider meets the industry standard of ISO27001.
A benefit of putting communications in the cloud is the high availability service that comes from your provider. Expect levels of 99.999%. Your communications solution and data is hosted in a resilient and secure private cloud. With sophisticated monitoring issues are often identified before the service is affected. Proactive recommendations can also be highlighted to help improve performance.
Communications is dependent on good connectivity and by hosting your voice in a private cloud you are guaranteed a robust and reliable platform. Providers may use virtual private network (VPN), over the top of the internet (OTT) or SIP to connect.
The advantage of hosting your voice in the cloud is the flexibility that it can bring to your organisation. You can easily add on applications, software and devices to improve business and customer service.
Cloud brings different deployment options whether you want your entire system hosted in the cloud or part of in the cloud and on-premises (Hybrid) – it is your choice! It is also your choice whether you want it 100% outsourced as a managed service, alternatively if you want to control elements yourself and have the hosting and platform management outsourced you are afforded additional flexibility.
Cyclical peaks and troughs are common in many legal practices. Having the flexibility to rapidly scale the number of concurrent calls both up and down means you can optimise business during these periods.
8) Disaster Recovery
An on-premise solution offers limited disaster recovery, if your system fails it will be detrimental to your client confidence. Voice in the cloud offers 99.999% availability therefore augmenting your disaster recovery plan.
The ability to work from anywhere means that disruption through “snow days” need no longer have an impact. Furthermore, built in resilience means that should one site lose connection to the network / core the system will carry on working and customer experience need not be impacted.
The mobile workforce is growing fast with more people working from different locations and based from home. Lawyers put in long hours and work from home. Legal practices that have gone through a merger or acquisition are faced with a growing team using different technologies and devices. The cloud provides the ideal platform to deploy cost-effective, full function mobile and home working solutions, delivering the functionality of the office, whilst on the move.
10) Meeting Industry Standards and Compliance
Meeting industry standards and compliance is paramount to businesses, particularly legal practices. Hosting your communications in the cloud you should ensure that your provider meets the expected industry standards and compliance such as the ISO 27001 Information Security Management standard, demonstrating that a robust management system and processes are in place to keep security risks under control and global best practice is adhered to.
There are many reasons to migrate to the cloud and for most legal practices the benefits far outweigh the concerns. Crucially, the advice of a trusted and experienced provider that understands the needs and requirements of your business, and adheres to the industry standards and regulations, will be invaluable when making the leap into the cloud. By putting voice in the cloud you will increase business agility, improve productivity and customer service, and sharpen your competitive edge.